Nevada History by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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Eureka

Eureka, the Diamond Mountains, Duckwater
and the southern entrance to the Ruby Mountains
by John C. Evanoff
March, 2006

The countryside I’m about to write about in the next couple of months is very near to my heart because of it’s great hunting and fishing and fantastic geology and history. My many hikes, horseback rides and 4x4 adventures into the mountains and valleys of these parts are second only to western Nevada and Washoe County. So, come along and visit some of these authentic marvels of Nevada. The Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest’s more than 6.3 million acres in Northern Nevada makes it the largest forest in the lower 48 states. Very few people think of Nevada as the most forested area in the United States (lower 48), but it is true. Beside the high desert valleys throughout all of Nevada lie mountain ranges full of juniper, white pine and pinion. The serious hikers of America who have trekked into this vast so called wasteland have come back astonished by its amazing diversity. If you spend some time in Eastern Nevada, you’ll understand my love for this extraordinary expanse of magnificent treasurers.

One of the reasons for Nevada’s early wealth is near Highway 50 East (the loneliest highway) in the little town of Eureka. This town sits as a reminder of all the little boomtowns in the west during the late 1800’s and the peculiarity of the business of mining silver and gold. A few early prospectors found lead-silver deposits in vast quantities all along the hillsides of the region including the Diamond Mountains but because of the technology involved in smelting the ore, Eureka really didn’t get going until the 1870’s. When it did though, it raced to become the main hub of mining activity between Elko, Austin and Tonopah and by 1878 it became the County Seat of Eureka County. No other town in Eastern Nevada grew as fast and by 1879 the town had almost 10,000 people with more than 80 saloons, 20 gambling halls, 3 opera houses, a half dozen bawdy houses, 5 fire stations, a dozen churches, more than 20 hotels, and a host of commercial buildings including three newspapers and two breweries. The Eureka and Palisade Railroad played a large part in the success of the town when it helped traffic freight, labor and processed ore to and from the Central Pacific’s tracks to the north in Palisade near Carlin. The little narrow gauge railroad company ran the 70 miles daily from Palisade south to Eureka and back. The Central Pacific was later absorbed by the Southern Pacific Railroad and land holding company but the Eureka and Palisade ran until 1938. Since the dozen or more smelters ran day and night processing the lead from the silver, the sky above Eureka must have been black most of the time but prosperity was the end result for the hard working citizens of the town. By 1891, most of the mines had shut down though and a few of those folks who were left decided to stay and create the wonderful clean little town it is today. Some of the buildings still stand as they were back in their heyday although painted and renamed and the Eureka Opera House is an operational event center with nationally recognized performers. The Sentinel Museum, the original Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Building is a must visit also as well as the four cemeteries, one almost completely devoted to a 1890 small pox epidemic in the town. The two mines of major importance in the area including Ruby Hill and Gold Bar are also accessible and can give you a better prospective of the enormous amount of ore extracted from the area including $45 million in silver, $25 million in gold and more than 300 tons of lead. Production of precious metals in the region was therefore second only to the Comstock in the entire United States. There is talk in the region of those claims being opened again in the very near future. If you like to hike and ride horseback, the mountains near the town include Diamond Peak at 10,614 feet just to the north and Mt. Hamilton at 10,746 feet well to the southeast. Both peaks are moderate to difficult climbs, but the rewarding views make them a must. Southeast of Eureka you’ll find a road heading to the Duckwater Indian Reservation and eventually to Highway 6 that leads north into Ely. The Western Shoshone lived in this area for more than a thousand years, a testament to their culture and strength. The Shoshone lived in the valley during the summer to hunt game and search for edible roots. In the autumn, they would then move to the mountains nearby into rock and sage shelters. From there, they hunted deer and ate the pinion pine nuts they had gathered in the fall throughout the winters. These families were of the same tribe that once flourished from Duck Creek east all the way to the Wasatch Front in Utah. Several roads leading into the Duckwater Range are well known by Nevada upland game bird hunters of Sage Grouse (Sagehen), Quail, and Chucker. These mountains are also home to some of the largest Mule Deer in Nevada. If you have time, take State Highway 278 north out of Eureka to Garden Pass next to Roberts Creek Mountain. You’ll see some amazing countryside and if you hike up to the top of the mountain, the views will amaze you. You can pick out parts of the path of the old railroad from Eureka to Jiggs and Railroad Pass to the northeast.

One of my favorite roads is just past Little Antelope Summit off Highway 50 just fifty miles east of Eureka. It heads north into Shantytown and the Ruby Valley and will acquaint you with some of the most beautiful topography in the eastern part of Nevada known as the southern entrance to the Ruby Mountains (The Little Yosemite of Nevada). But I digress. We will visit this spectacular area in a column devoted just to it alone in the near future. If you like to fish, don’t miss this opportunity though. The bass fishing in the Ruby Lake area near Shantytown is some of the best in Nevada. My wife and I were flyfishing with small weedless frog poppers one rainy and lightening filled day several years back and caught and released more than seventy five bass from one to five pounds. The next day we fished for tiger and brown trout in the canal just above the lake and caught and released more than thirty fish in the one to three pound range. There have been fish reported of up to ten pounds coming from both these areas, so don’t be surprised if you set your hook into a big one. Remember to follow the rules of the Nevada Fish and Game department throughout this region. Fines are hefty for those found not adhering to the laws concerning private and US Forest land, so be sure to follow the rules of etiquette on private land by asking first before crossing and contacting the US Forest Service if you plan to hike one of the many peaks. They are there to help you in case you need it. Always take along a Nevada Fish and Game rule booklet to be sure you are in season and using the correct methods for fishing and hunting. You can usually pick them up at any local sporting goods store. As always, you can go on line to find out more from each particular agency. The folks in these areas are friendly and courteous. All you have to do is politely ask and they can help direct you. Next, we visit my friends Ruth, Ely and McGill and the largest glory hole in the world.

 


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